Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen´s speech on High-Level AI Conference at Finlandia Hall 27 February 2019

Ministry of Justice 27.2.2019 12.28
Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to this second day of our high-level conference. During these two days in Helsinki, we are giving our strong support to a European approach to artificial intelligence. It is an approach that focuses on the great potential the new generation of digitalization brings with it – in terms of access to justice, evidence-based decision making, data economy and participation. At the same time, European approach to artificial development can only be firmly rooted in our core values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Though a global consensus in these matters still waits to take form, we must start building a European consensus. Europe must lead by example and develop a human-centered approach, where citizens´ trust is put in the focus of AI development.  To me, it is self-evident that the Council of Europe should take the leading role in this field. Ahead of the challenges of today, the 70-year old organization is needed more than ever.

Dear audience,

Europe has already been able to set a global standard for privacy and protection of data. It is this legislative framework that will guide our approach to new technologies.

At the end of January, “Guidelines on Artificial Intelligence and Data Protection” were adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe. These guidelines are a baseline to ensure that AI applications do not undermine human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms. I welcome this guidance.

I am convinced that Europe can also take a lead as a global standard setter for the rule of law in the new digital era.

The Council of Europe is clearly ready for the task.

In December last year, the first European Ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence in judicial systems and related fields was adopted by the Council of Europe. This charter provides welcomed guidance for those developing and adopting new technologies in the justice sector.

In this connection, we can highlight the five principles of the Ethical Charter – principles that I believe are valid for both justice and for any other field as well:

First; respect for fundamental rights

Secondly; non-discrimination

Third; quality and security

Fourth; transparency, impartiality and fairness

And finally, number five: we must ensure that users of artificial intelligence are informed actors and in control of the choices they make.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Indeed, artificial intelligence does have great potential to make a positive contribution to access to justice.

Now, digitalization in courts is well underway. This is the case also in Finland. More concretely, this means for instance that we have more and more documents and data in machine-readable form. And this way, digitalization enables also the use of different AI technologies. The aim is to make it easier to contribute to the more effective and even better realization of justice, while maintaining the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

Hence, with faster and better access to information, intelligent tools have the potential to shorten the time of judicial proceedings and to simplify processes.

This said,

in terms of access to justice, artificial intelligence is much more than supporting cost-efficient technical solutions. In my vision, it can also offer new tools to supporting a democratic and an inclusive society. If we make the right choices, technology can help bridging the digital divide. We need to make sure that our choices do not lead to the opposite direction. Therefore, we must also keep in mind user-friendliness and accessibility. We need to make sure that access to justice remains a basic right for everyone, not only for those who master digital services.

We also have a major responsibility in ensuring that artificial intelligence is not used to the detriment of democratic judicial systems. Key principles such as equality before the law, legal certainty and transparency must be ensured also when making full use of new technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

our legal framework applies also to artificial intelligence. Given the enormous potential of the new technologies, it is important that regulation and rules enable development and not hinder it. In the new era, the legislative framework must be technology-neutral and enable digital progress.

The current legal framework, self-regulation and ethical guidelines must ensure that technological progress occurs in line with principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. But in the future there may also be new areas where legislators must be ready to act, if needs arise. 

I would like to raise here the importance of proactive cooperation between program developers, companies, science and public sector. We cannot as administrations or regulators only react to technology development but we must be part of creating new solutions proactively. It is clear that we need to understand better the potential what AI and software development create.

It is also important to evaluate whether our regulatory processes are up to date. I am quite certain that we are able to develop more dynamic legislative procedures and maybe even include algorithmic mechanisms into our regulations to follow whether certain software solutions are fulfilling tasks in a way they are supposed to. I believe that we should discuss in more details about software and algorithms already directing our daily activities. I would still like to emphasize that all this can be done in public private cooperation and our common aim should be the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Dear audience,

Today judges, legal scholars and law-makers will present their perspectives to the development and use of artificial intelligence.

What does artificial intelligence mean for us lawyers? Machine-based solutions come to either support or to replace human decision-making. While different AI applications are taken into use in various contexts, is it not automatically guaranteed that these applications will operate in such a way that would ensure a fair and just outcome. On the other hand, machines do learn many things. But can we teach machines to respect and apply universal human rights?

Ladies and gentlemen,

technological development opens new horizons for the good of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. But with incidents like Cambridge Analytica we have already seen how rapidly trust in our most fundamental democratic structures can be shaken. Our task is therefore to build trust.

Also, our duty today is to speak up, to have more understanding on AI and how it operates and to openly analyze both positive and negative consequences of AI for the legal system and the citizens involved.

Europe must lead by example, because in essence, trust and legitimacy of the systems at large are at stake.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In July, Finland will take up the Presidency of the European Union. Fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law are the core values we will continue to vigorously promote, both in the EU and in the Council of Europe.

Dear speakers and panelists,

I look forward for hearing your excellent comments on these issues.

With these words, I wish us all an inspiring and innovative seminar!

Thank you.                     

Antti Häkkänen